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Malepolish: the unstoppable rise of nail varnish for men


Name: Malepolish.

Age: Old.

Yeah, how old? About 5,500 years – old enough?

We’re talking about nail polish, right? Specifically men painting their nails. Babylonian warriors were doing it around 3500BC. “Warriors adorned their nails with ground minerals as part of a pre-battle ritual designed to intimidate their enemies,” according to a 2018 paper from the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York state.

“I’m not fighting him, he’s got red nails!” Yeah, that’s the idea. There’s evidence men in ancient Egyptian were also into it, as well as some in ancient China.

All right, Mary Beard, can we get this a bit closer to the present? OK. Nail painting became more of a thing for women for a millennium or two, but in the 1970s and 80s male musicians started to put the man back into the manicure. Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, David Bowie, Freddie Mercury, Prince …

… Nirvana? We’re getting into the 90s, but yes: the polish flowed through grunge, with Kurt Cobain rocking shocking red claws. This century, rappers started to reach for the little bottles with the little brushes – Lil Yachty, Gunna, Tyler, the Creator, to name three.

Sounds like four to me. Wake up, Grandma. Tyler, the Creator is one person. Anyway, to the point: he’s part of this interesting phenomenon of celebrity male nail polish. His fashion label, Golf le Fleur, now offers three shades of nail polish that break down gender norms.

Tyler, the Creator created! OK, I think we’ve done that one. And it’s not just him. Machine Gun Kelly has a new line, UN/DN Laqr. AJ McLean, the Backstreet Boy, has launched the beauty brand Ava Dean. On this side of the Atlantic, Harry Styles’s beauty range, Pleasing, features nail polish, as you’ll have seen on Instagram.

Of course. Just remind the readers. “I started Pleasing to collaborate with people who inspire me, and to explore ideas that go beyond music,” he posted. “I hope you love it as much as I do. It’s for you, it’s just the beginning. H.”

I love it, H, I do. How much? £50. But that’s for the full set: four collectible bottles, four different colours.

Red? No red. The nearest is Granny’s Pink Pearls, which is pink, unsurprisingly. The others are called Perfect Pearl, Pearly Tops and Inky Pearl. H encourages you to mix, too, so the world is your oyster, just to drag out the “pearly” thing further still.

Do say: “When it’s time to meet him-up-there, I want to be wearing Pearly Gates by Harry Styles.”

Don’t say: “But you’re not actually the creator, are you, Tyler?”





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